This was on final passage of legislation that redirected a portion of the “TARP” funds, previously used to bail out distressed major financial institutions, to economic stimulus programs. The bill also provided fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Defense and Commerce, the Justice Department and various other agencies.
Rep. Obey (D-WI), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was leading the support for the bill. He focused his remarks on the provisions that redirected the use of the TARP funds. Obey noted that they previously “have been directed to help Wall Street” and are now being directed “to Main Street to try to help Americans who are struggling to hang onto their jobs, their houses, and their health care.”
Rep. Oberstar, who chairs the Public Works and Transportation Committee which has jurisdiction over many of the programs to which the TARP funds will be redirected, expressed his support for the legislation. Oberstar claimed “a highly successful record” on that portion of the stimulus that had already been devoted to transportation and infrastructure development. Specifically, he said: “There are 220,000 direct jobs on over 8,000 projects . . . There is $10 billion paid in payroll checks and $179 million in unemployment insurance compensation checks avoided, and there is $230 million in taxes paid to the federal government by those on these jobs, and there is more to come . . . That is an investment in America.”
Rep. Lewis (R-CA) was leading the opposition to the legislation. He also focused on the redirected use of the TARP funds, calling it “economic insanity.” Lewis argued that the redirection of the funds is a policy that “repeats the failures of the previous “so-called ‘Recovery Act' by pouring another $150 billion into programs included in the original stimulus package that have so far failed to produce real results or real jobs.” He went on to claim that the redirection “adds an additional $150 billion to a budget deficit that has already tripled in the last year.”
Lewis attacked the bill generally because it had only become available very shortly before it was brought to the House floor for consideration. He said its provisions were “a virtual mystery”, claiming that Chairman Obey had “instructed his (Democratic) staff not to share any details or information with the (Republican) staff about the bill” and noting that its contents “were released just shy of midnight last night . . . and there is no way for anyone to have read or understood it completely.”
The legislation passed by a vote of 217-212. All two hundred and twenty-eight “aye” votes were cast by Democrats, including a majority of the most progressive Members .Thirty-eight other Democrats joined all one hundred and seventy-four Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent to the Senate legislation redirecting funds previously used to bail out distressed major financial institutions to economic stimulus programs, and providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Defense and Commerce, the Justice Department and various other agencies.